How have you used your downtime?

Posted in information on February 12th, 2013 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

Winter is a bad time for canners who like to create, but it’s a great time of year for consuming the results! Pies made with fillings made from summer fruit in December? Yes, please!

But now we are heading into growing seasons, it’s time to do housekeeping. If you have a pressure canner, contact your county extension service and have your pressure gauge checked for accuracy. Go through your supplies and make sure there are no cracked jars or rims, that you have plenty of lids for same, and that you have sufficient quantites of sugar, vinegar, pectin, and spices for what you want to put up over this season!


Chili and beer

Posted in information on October 31st, 2012 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

Everyone has their favourite chili recipe. And why wouldn’t you? A meltingly tender stew of mixed meats, and/or veggies, and/or beans, it can be a gourmet feast, a magnet for leftovers, or an acknowledgement that there is too much month left at the end of your pay!

How can you incorporate a nice beer into your chili? Easy. Instead of making the chili with broth or stock or water, add a nice dark beer instead. The end result obviously depends on which type of stout you use – many chili recipes call for coffee, so a coffee stout (with or without oatmeal) will bring those flavours right into the heart of your meal.

If you want your chili to have more of a Mole Sauce experience, use a chocolate stout or a porter: porters are much more chocolate-forward in their flavour profile, which will put those dark chocolate-y flavours right into the heart of your stew.

If dairy isn’t problematic, milk stouts bring a lot of chocolate and residual sweetness to the party. While they will put that Mole Sauce flavour into the pot, they are made with lactose. Bear this in mind and don’t offer a Milk Stout chili to someone who is vegan or lactose intolerant!

Are you looking for something even more, something that is a towering masterpiece of complexity, a powerhouse of flavour to overcome an overly enthusiastic application of capsaicin (“Oops, I used habanero instead of jalapeno”)? Use an Imperial Stout or Baltic Porter. These two styles are massively complex with coffee, chocolate, dark fruitiness, and a lot of residual sweetness which will help reduce the perceived heat of the dish.

For a different take on chili: if you like your chili made with pork, sample several doppelbock beers. Doppelbock is a traditional German style of dark lager which has residual sweetness and a subtle chocolate/coffee note. Doppelbock goes with pork in any form you care to cook it, so play around with DoppelPig Chili! (Tip: almost all German, and an overwhelming majority of American doppelbocks have names that end in -ator such as Celebrator, Salvator, Consecrator… you get the idea!)

Wild card option here – sour Belgian beers. If you’re making a deer-based chili, you could go for a sour cherry beer (Kriek Lambic) instead, honoring the European tradition of serving venison with a sour cherry gravy.

Vegetarian/vegans, I am not ignoring you. Most modern beers are made with Irish Peat Moss instead of finings, so you’re safe with pretty much every beer that doesn’t say “made traditionally”. If you are in any doubt you can contact the brewery and ask if the beer is clarified with finings. If you’re making a veg*n chili, you can go different directions with your beer choices as the flavour profile of a veg*n chili could be a lot lighter than with a meat-based chili. If you load your chili with black beans and mushrooms, go for the stout/porter option. If you’re going lighter, towards a white chili, you can experiment with Pale Ale, IPA, or potentially even a hefeweizen.

The best part of making a chili with a beer? Sitting down with a steaming bowl full of delicious food, and a glass of the beer you made the dish with. On a cold evening it doesn’t get much better than that.


Pomona’s Pectin

Posted in basic principles, links, pectin on July 29th, 2012 by stuart — 3 Comments

I thought it would be a good idea to break out the information about Pomona’s Pectin into a separate article.

Q: Where can I buy Pomona’s?
A: You can buy it online in bulk, which is what I would recommend.

Q: What makes it different from the regular stuff?
A: You can double, triple, quadruple, or whatever your recipe size. You can also make jam with no added sugar, or make it with honey or other complex syrups instead, while still using less sweetener than regular pectin.

Q: Wait – regular pectin always says “don’t double”. How can you double up the recipe with Pomona’s?
A: Because it doesn’t set with sugar – it sets with calcium water.

Q: Calcium water? What’s that?
A: In the instructions it tells you how to make the calcium water with the provided sachet of calcium powder – 1/2 teaspoon of calcium powder to 1/2 cup of water. Shake them thoroughly together and store the calcium water in the fridge. Discard it if it discolours or gets moldy.

Q: So, you’re telling me this is a form of pectin that allows me to scale my recipes up or down, allows me to make jam or jelly without added sugar, or by using honey instead? Really?!!?
A: Yup!

Q: So where were you on the night of the 15th?!!?
A: This interview is over!


Reduced Sugar Cherry Jam

Posted in canning, fruit, hot water canning, information, jams, recipe, seasonal canning on July 28th, 2012 by stuart — 2 Comments

I am loving the results I get with Pomona’s Pectin. The jam tastes like fruit gently stewed in honey. Wonderful.

4 cups, mashed or chopped, pitted cherries
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
4 tsp calcium water

Place these ingredients in a large saucepan and start to gently heat.

1 cup honey (or, if you must, 3/4 to 2 cups sugar)
3 tsp Pomona’s pectin mixed thoroughly into the honey (or, yuck, sugar)

Bring the fruit/juice/calcium water to a BOIL. Pour the honey/pectin mix into the saucepan and stir while bringing the mix back to the boil. Pour cherry jam into heated jam jars, lid up, and stick into your boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Once the 10 minutes is up, take off the heat, remove lid from the canner, leave for 5 minutes, then place jars onto a cookie sheet to cool over night. Enjoy!


Seasonal vegan dessert or breakfast

Posted in dessert, frugal living, recipe on June 5th, 2012 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

OK, time to rock your socks with a seasonal, vegan, healthy (…. ish!) breakfast or dessert. It’s also dirt cheap!

As I have some blackberries and blueberries left over from my recent U-Pick experience, I thought it was time to make something fun. So, black-and-blue-berry pancakes it is!

1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup *milk
1 tablespoon milled flax seed
3 tablespoons water

Frying pan
Crumpet rings*

Mix the water and the milled flax seed 10 minutes before you start preparation of the batter. Stir the *milk (of whatever variety you prefer) into the prepared flax seed. Gently stir the self-raising flour into the liquid, stirring as little as possible to avoid forming gluten strands. Your batter should be fairly thick and will almost certainly be lumpy. If the lumps bother you, refrigerate the batter for 30 minutes or so to allow the flour to absorb the liquid rather than trying to stir everything together.

Prepare your frying pan with a little vegetable oil. Place your crumpet rings* (or you can use small food cans with the top and bottom cut out of them to form a closed-sided ring) in a small bowl with vegetable oil in it. You want to get the inside of the rings well lubricated.

Place the lubricated rings in the frying pan once it is up to temperature. Place a number of black- or blue-berries into the ring. (How many berries? About what looks right to you ;).) Put just enough batter into the ring to barely cover the smallest berries.

Once the top surface of the batter has begun to set up, gently remove the rings and place them back in the bowl of vegetable oil. Carefully test the pancake parcels until they come away from the frying pan surface, then flip and cook for another minute or so until the surface is just set. Serve with lashings of your favourite syrup.

Repeat until there is no more batter. Or fruit. If you run out of batter before you run out of fruit… make more batter 🙂


Low added sugar blackberry jam

Posted in fruit, hot water canning, information, jams, recipe, seasonal canning on May 29th, 2012 by stuart — 2 Comments

Having picked a lot of delicious blackberries at Holmestead Farm as part of my fun U-Pick experience, I set out to create some awesome low added sugar blackberry jam, using Pomona’s Universal Pectin.

Yield: about 5 cups (5 jelly jars)
Thoroughly rinse and pick through your blackberries

  • 4 cups blackberries
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons Pomona’s Pectin
  • 2 teaspoons calcium water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

1. Prepare jars by washing and rinsing. I leave the jars in the hot water bath canner while I bring it up to a boil.

2. Measure fruit into pan with lemon juice (you can use lime juice instead if you prefer).

3. Add calcium water into pan and stir well.

4. Measure room temperature honey into separate bowl. Thoroughly mix proper amount of pectin powder into honey (if you prefer to use sugar, you can use 3/4 to 2 cups of it instead of honey).

5. Bring fruit to boil. If you prefer a chunky texture just stir the fruit mix – if you want something a bit smoother, you can mash the fruit or even feed it through a food mill to remove seeds. If you want seedless, add an extra cup of fruit to correct for the loss of bulk in the milling process. Add pectin and honey mix and stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes while cooking to dissolve pectin. Return to boil and remove from heat.

6. Fill jars to 1/4″ of top. Wipe rims clean. Screw on 2-piece lids. Put filled jars in boiling water to cover. Boil 10 min. (add 1 min. more for every 1,000 ft. above sea level). Remove from water. Let jars cool. Check seals–lids should be sucked down. Lasts about a hypothetical 3 weeks once opened, but if you’re anything like me it’s doubtful the jar will last more than 3 days 😉

The most awesome part about the Pomona’s Pectin is that you can scale the recipes either way – you can double it or halve it without in any way affecting the quality of the finished product. You cannot do this with conventional pectin, hence my preference for Pomona’s.


Tips for a successful u-pick experience

Posted in basic principles on May 28th, 2012 by stuart — 4 Comments

As various fruits come into season, u-pick places are opening their doors to the hungry. Resources like Pick Your Own come into their own, but here are some things you need to consider.

Getting there

  • Unless you live in a rural area the likelihood is that you will be driving for an hour or more.
  • Make sure your GPS or map navigator knows how to get you there, or that you have good directions. It is quite disheartening to wind up miles away from your intended destination!
  • Leave early. In Southern summers you don’t want to be picking at noon or in the afternoon when the heat and humidity are at their worst. If you set off at 4pm and the place closes at 5pm, you will not be happy.
  • Wear appropriate clothes. Blueberries and blackberries can stain – you won’t want to wear light colours if you tend to wipe your hands.
  • Bring a hat. (Yes, I know hats are clothes, but it’s easy to forget until you’re out there!)
  • Take plenty of drinks with you. Picking can feel like work (don’t volunteer to pick 2 gallons of blueberries at 1pm in July!) and be very hot. Don’t let dehydration or sunstroke spoil your day.
  • Apply sun block liberally before you arrive even if you think it will be overcast. Lobster is not a good colour for most people!
  • Bugs. Where there is fruit, there are bugs – bees, wasps, grasshoppers, flies, and so on. Also bear in mind that being eaten alive by mosquitoes is not fun so don’t be stingy with the bug spray.
  • Once you’re there

  • Allow yourself enough time to pick the fruit. If you have children it will take longer than if you are with adults only; this isn’t only because children tend to eat more than they leave in the buckets!
  • Specific fruits have their own demands – large blackberries pick a lot faster than blueberries, for example. Allow about an hour for a gallon of larger berries, and add half an hour for smaller ones.
  • If you’re planning to make jam, a few less-ripe berries can actually be good; they add a tarter flavour. It’s all up to you! If you only have one person in the family who prefers a less-sweet jam, plan to pick through the berries and just make a small amount of jam with the more tart flavour.
  • Don’t assume the u-pick location takes credit/debit cards. Call ahead and ask, or carry cash. You might also want to ask how much a gallon of the fruit costs so you can bring enough.
  • Many places will decant your berries into plastic grocery bags. You might want to bring a cooler to transport them safely home.
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    Reduced Sugar Strawberry Jam

    Posted in canning, hot water canning, jams, recipe, seasonal canning on April 21st, 2012 by stuart — 1 Comment so far

    Pomona’s Pectin is an alternative to conventional pectin, which allows you to make jams with reduced, or no, sugar.

    Due to the very mild winter we have had this year, strawberries have come into season early and very sweet. What else could I do apart from make some jam? And as I have Pomona’s Pectin, and some local honey, well… that’s pretty much a match made in heaven!

    Prepare your boiling water bath canner along with 7 jam jars, lids, and rings.

  • 8 cups of crushed or sliced strawberries
  • 2 tsp calcium water
  • 1.5 cups of honey
  • 2 tsp Pomona’s Pectin
  • Put the strawberries and calcium water into a large cooking pot. Mix the pectin into the honey very thoroughly. Bring the strawberries and calcium water to a full boil, stir in the blended honey and pectin while returning the strawberries to a full boil. Once the jam has returned to a full boil, allow it to stand for a couple of minutes then stir thoroughly – this short rest should make sure that the fruit gets distributed evenly throughout the jam.

    This will make a jam that is semi-solid with a nice juicy texture. For a thicker jam, try a sliding scale of up to double the pectin and the calcium water. If you double the pectin and calcium the jam should set almost solid.

    Put the jam into the jars, boil for 10 minutes, allow to cool for at least 12 hours, label, and store in a cool, dark place. Jam!

    Check this ingredients list against commercially made jams. What do you notice? No preservatives, no High Fructose Corn Syrup, no artificial colouring. Just fruit, pectin, honey, calcium, and a little water. In other words… food.


    What to do with canned foods?

    Posted in dessert, information, pie, recipe on February 29th, 2012 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    The whole reason I make canned/preserved foods is to be able to eat them when they are out of season and thus expensive and shipped in over long distances. But once you’ve got them, what do you do with them?

    Last year I made a couple of different pie fillings while the fruits were in season and cheap: blueberry pie and cherry pie.

    For Pancake Day I decided to go in a slightly different direction and made a clafoutis with canned cherry pie filling. It didn’t last very long!


    • 1 cup milk
    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup flour

    Preheat oven to 350F.

    Place the batter ingredients in your food processor and blend at top speed for about 1 minute to make a very wet batter (if you don’t have a food processor, beat gently to mix all the ingredients and pass batter through a fine sieve to make a very smooth, no-lumps batter).

    Lightly butter your skillet and set over moderate heat on the stove. Pour in just enough of the batter to make a thin layer on the bottom of the skillet and heat until the batter is just set. Remove from the heat, gently spread your pie filling over the set batter and top with the rest of the batter. Put into the heated oven and bake for about an hour or until the batter is golden brown and delicious. Serve warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar, hot tea or coffee, and enjoy!


    Coming soon!

    Posted in information on February 24th, 2012 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    Now that we are in the new year and produce is beginning to wake from its long winter slumber, canning time is back! With my focus on canning only what’s in season, winter can be hard as there really isn’t a lot to can.

    But the good point about winter is that you get the benefit of the foods you canned over the spring, summer, and fall, and you can plan accordingly for the next year.

    This year, 2012, I intend focusing more on veggies and low, or no, added sugar jams. Whether you need to be mindful of sugar for health or diet reasons, I hope you’ll find some of the upcoming recipes useful.

    See you soon!